GILROY, CALIF. — “Sliced loaf after sliced loaf” for many years described the packaged bread aisle of grocery stores in the United States, said Inanna Eshoo, head of food service at California Lavash, a family-run commercial bakery.
Lately, she said, that has changed.
“Flatbreads like lavash, naan and pita are so hot right now because people want to eat bread with a story, and these ancient breads have a cultural connection baked in,” Ms. Eshoo told Milling & Baking News. “The authentic connection to ancient cultures also satisfies today’s appetite for authentic foods. And then there’s the flexibility. Flatbreads can fit into just about any lifestyle and diet.”
California Lavash was founded more than 25 years ago by Ms. Eshoo’s parents, using a grandmother’s traditional recipe. A staple of Middle Eastern cuisine, lavash is a soft, thin flatbread. The company also bakes naan and pita bread, using ingredients such as unbleached white flour, filtered water, oat fiber, sea salt, yeast, canola oil and cultured whole wheat.
“Today, we craft California Lavash the way our family has for generations using the same techniques, the highest-quality ingredients and a true love for making the most delicious bread possible,” Ms. Eshoo said. “It’s our passion. It’s our joy. And it’s our family tradition.”
The flatbreads are Non-GMO Project verified, vegan, kosher and halal and contain no artificial preservatives, chemicals, dough conditions or gums.
“Our food service partners want to sell clean label as it represents the evolution of healthy,” Ms. Eshoo said. “Their consumers want to eat food that is made from real, high-quality ingredients that they can pronounce.”
Flatbreads are versatile, too, she said.
“Our customers can create vegan wraps, pinwheels and pizza to meet the grab-and-go segment seeking vegan choices,” Ms. Eshoo said. “Some people just enjoy that our super thin bread doesn’t overpower the other ingredients it’s served with. Our lavash and pita in particular are so thin that people who still want to enjoy a proportional bread-to-ingredient ratio and have a balanced amount of carbs at each meal can do so.”
California Lavash products are sold in more than 700 grocery stores in California, including Safeway and Whole Foods Market. Varieties and flavors include traditional, garlic and herb, spinach and whole grain.
Ms. Eshoo’s sister Lilea is chief operating officer. Their brother Rick inherited head-baking duties. The company recently began expanding its baking facility in Gilroy, Calif., to handle more orders while increasing marketing efforts to drive brand awareness.
In January, California Lavash exhibited at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, where Ms. Eshoo said the brand generated a positive response.
“We met a lot of interested and interesting attendees and hopefully sparked a few great relationships with buyers, most of whom were happy to get to know California Lavash and very positive about the value we can bring to their shoppers and stores,” she said.
Other product launches featured at the show underscore the rise in flatbread’s popularity. Ozery Bakery, Vaughan, Ont., presented new Organic Lavash Crackers in spelt, multigrain, apple quinoa and cranberry seeds varieties. Gourmet naan pizzas were highlighted by Deep Foods, Inc., Union, N.J., in flavors such as cilantro pesto, spinach paneer and roasted eggplant.
“The commercial bread aisle has looked the same in the U.S. for as long as we all can remember,” Ms. Eshoo said. “But flatbreads are fun and exciting — they give busy consumers new options that are tasty, convenient and healthy.”